HYMN FOR EPIPHANY IV Du fødtes på jord/You came to us here,
Text: Lisbeth Smedegaard Andersen. Tune: Erik Haumann
1. You came to us here,
A baby who nursed, who felt joy and knew fear,
You played and you grew up, you laughed and you cried,
Wherever we live, you have lived, you have died.
Renew us, we pray,
Each joyful new day.
2. Each joyful new day,
Give hope to our struggles through difficult way,
Come, show us in spite of the brambles and thorns,
Abundant great harvest of wheat and of corn,
Give us daily bread,
Each morn’s dawning red.
3. From birth until death
We travel assured in the word that you said
When frightened poor women arrived at the tomb
And saw winged angels stand guarding the room.
Then baptized in death,
They found hope and faith.
4. To give hope and faith
We bring you our children, baptized in your death,
And let you receive them and give them new life.
To live, born again, with new strength in their strife.
The word which you give
Grants power to live.
5. We have pow’r to live
Because of the bread and the wine that you give.
We come to you weary, and kneel for your grace.
You lift up your countenance , show us your face.
We take from your Word
The peace of the Lord.
6. And so we pray: Lord,
Come, give us the courage to live by your Word,
To grow in your love as its glory unfolds
Till all become one in a hymn to our God.
Who made his Word clear
When he sent you here.
Tr. Gracia Grindal
Some hymns fit every season of the year. This hymn is one. Written by Denmark’s most well regarded hymn writer of the day, Lisbeth Smedegaard Andersen, it tells the story of Christmas, Lent and Easter, the last things, and how we as Christians receive him in our baptisms and are strengthened in our faith by the word and sacrament.
I met Lisbeth at the 300th jubilee of Hans Adolph Brorson in Løgumkloster, Denmark, in 1994.
Because of my love for Brorson, Steffan Arndal, the Danish scholar who planned the 300th jubilee, invited me to come and be at the festival. While I was there enjoying the events and the social times, I metLisbeth. From then on we became good friends. At the time she was pastor at Holmen church in downtown Copenhagen and very busy, but writing hymns that interested me very much so I began translating them.
She was also an expert in art, having studied at Union Seminary in the 1980s, especially that which could be found in churches, or which had Christian themes. She had written a book on Rembrandt as a modern preacher, Rembrandt-en moderne forkynder. A revelation to me and one I wish could be translated. In that book and then many others, she taught me how to look at paintings. I treasure what she has given me. Many of you have noticed that I use the great art of the Christian tradition in my hymnblog, all greatly indebted to her.
In writing about Christian art, she helped many Danish artists see how they could use Christian themes to express their own angst in ways that gave their art a resonance that went deeper than they might have on their own. One painter told her, if I remember right, that he had not realized before how he could explore his own difficulties with his father by painting the Abraham and Isaac scene. The account gave him directions and depths he would not have been able to express nearly so well as he was able to with the biblical story.
As the new millennium began, she turned her writing to novelistic biographies, telling the story of her family during the 19th century. In those stories she would relate them to the life and times of Denmark and how the Christian faith, its hymns and art, lived in and informed her family during those times. I found them moving and helpful in my own work—in some ways we have both found the same kinds of forms and subjects as we have continued writing and grown in our friendship.
She continues, as I do, to write hymns and poems, but also devotional books, always musing on the way Christ comes to us here—in our secular and one-dimensional world where people cannot see the spiritual world that she shows them in every piece she writes.
During the pandemic she wrote meditations and hymns, Skyggerids, on Søren Kierkegaard’s prayers which are a rich treasury of devotion. Admitting that Kierkegaard is vexing and exhausting, she found his prayers stimulating enough to cause her to write fourteen hymns inspired by his prayers, all set to music by a variety of Danish composers.
Her Crown of Sonnets on the passion,"Nu Lægger Vinden sig i Verdens Haver" has been set by Danish composer Per Skriver into a powerful oratorio with choirs, readers and orchestra. It is something I listen to during Holy Week as much as I listen to the Bach passions. They speak with a contemporary voice to our times with a moving and wrenching beauty.
We are very different: I am a Norwegian-American pietist, she a Grundtvigian Dane, but we thoroughly enjoy that difference. To be with Jens and Lisbeth in their home, or entertain them in mine, is to fully enjoy the gifts of this earth where the Holy Spirit flutters around us and makes things lovely and rich. She is a great cook and many are the evenings where we have spent time enjoying her repast, talking about our mutual interests, our craft and what it means to write hymns and poems especially in this time which is so secular but also so needy. I remember with pleasure many a late evening in the Nordic summer as light faded into darkness and our conversation moved us toward the truth which we both understand to be the Spirit’s working to show us our Lord.
Because “he came to us here.”
This hymn appeared in one of Lisbeth's first books of hymnody Du bor i vor Dag, 1984. Set by Erik Haumann, the organist in her first parish in Riskov, it appeared in the Supplement to the Danish Hymnal/,Tillæg til den Danske Salmebog, 1994, and is now a popular Christmas/Easter hymn in the latest Danish hymnal, 2002
Danish girl’s choir
Saxophone and organ version with Danish sermon on the text for the third Sunday of Easter
Søndag den 3. maj 2020 Dagens Evangelium: Johannes 14, 1-11 Prædiken ved Charlotte Ustrup. The sermon is over about 9:15 minutes, but it is fun to hear it.
Congregation singing the hymn